A team of Stanford engineers just created the world’s first computer made from carbon nanotubes! The invention has the potential to launch a new generation of electronic devices that are faster, lighter and more energy-efficient.

Stanford University, Carbon Nanotubes, CNT, electronic devices, green devices, carbon, computing, space elevators, carbon batteries, nanotube technologiesCarbon nanotube image from Shutterstock

Carbon nanotubes have long been hailed as a next-gen wonder material capable of creating everything from space elevators to better batteries. The Stanford team’s achievement, which was covered by Max Shulaker in the latest edition of Nature, could lead to the obsolescence of silicon computer systems.

“People have been talking about a new era of carbon nanotube electronics moving beyond silicon,” said Subhasish Mitra, an electrical engineer and computer scientist. “But there have been few demonstrations of complete digital systems using this exciting technology. Here is the proof.”

This breakthrough could shift computing away from silicon-based technology and towards cheaper, more efficient and faster devices. “There is no question that this will get the attention of researchers in the semiconductor community and entice them to explore how this technology can lead to smaller, more energy-efficient processors in the next decade,” noted Professor Jan Rabaey, a world expert on electronic circuits and systems at the University of California-Berkeley.

One of the main barriers to the technology involves imperfections in the material. However the Stanford team may have found a workaround to this problem. According to Professor Giovanni De Micheli, director of the Institute of Electrical Engineering at École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne in Switzerland, the US team “put in place a process for fabricating CNT-based circuits (and) built a simple but effective circuit that shows that computation is doable using CNTs.”

Carbon nanotube-developed devices would also not get as hot as their silicon brethren. “Energy dissipation of silicon-based systems has been a major concern,” said Anantha Chandrakasan, head of electrical engineering and computer science at MIT, who also called the Stanford work “a major benchmark” in moving CNTs toward practical use.

Though it could take years to mature, Stanford’s breakthrough points towards the possibility of producing carbon nanotube semiconductors on an industrial scale, which could transform the global computer industry.

+ Stanford University

Via BBC News

Lead image by Stanford University